Tuesday, July 23, 2013

My 10 Favorite--or 10 of My Favorite--Historicals

When I list my favorite historical romance novels, it’s really difficult for me to not just give you the catalogs of Courtney Milan, Tessa Dare, and Elizabeth Hoyt. The extent to which I adore these three authors is frankly embarrassing, so I’m not going to gush over them, but I will say that out of 25 novels and 9 novellas/short stories I recommend all of them without reservation except for one (Hoyt’s To Desire a Devil—I’m not comfortable with some of the consent issues). Choose one, start reading, and you won’t regret it.

This was a much more difficult list to choose than my previous lists of movies and contemporary romance. I’ve ended up settling for my favorite two books by each of five authors I love. So this time they’re organized by last name of author (then alphabetical by title).

Loretta Chase
Lord of Scoundrels
Book Three in the Débauchés series
Published 1995
Like Bet Me, this is a book that is almost universally agreed to be one of the best in the genre. Sebastian is a tortured alpha male for the ages, and Jessica is an intelligent, feisty, ambitious, shrewd heroine that I wish I could have a few good conversations with. This book is sharp, funny, and heartbreaking.

Mr. Impossible
Book Two in the Carsington Brothers series
Published March 2005
Egyptian scholar Daphne Pembroke hires Rupert Carsington to be the brawn to her brains on her quest to find her kidnapped brother. Lots of adventure and action and hijinks ensue. Daphne is so bright and Rupert is so wonderful. This book is even funnier than Lord of Scoundrels because Rupert discovers early on that infuriating Daphne is an effective way to prevent her from crying. Blistering banter ensues.

Tessa Dare
One Dance with a Duke
Book One in the Stud Club Trilogy
Published May 25, 2010
I love Spencer and Amelia’s story. Outwardly, they’re extremely different, but together they just click. There are other elements to this story—a murder mystery that motivates the entire series, and interesting secondary characters, some of whom get their own books—but at the center of it there’s a sweet, touching romance between two imperfect people.

A Week to Be Wicked
Book Two in the Spindle Cove series
Published March 27, 2012
OMGOMGOMGOMGOMGOMGOMG. This is my favorite book ever. I love it so much that writing about it articulately is difficult, which is ironic because the heroine, Minerva, is brilliant and scholarly. And hero Colin is a hilarious, though genuinely troubled, rake. And they’re so wonderful together, especially when Colin helps show Minerva that she’s valuable for more than just her scientific discoveries. And it’s so, so, so funny; the banter is to die for. And just…if you have ever felt like you’re not worth more than your academic achievements, or if you’ve ever felt like you’re not worth much at all, or if you want to read something touching and intelligent and devastatingly witty, read this book.

Cecilia Grant
A Lady Awakened
Book One in the Blackshear series
Published December 2011
One of the more unlikely romances I’ve read. Newly-widowed Martha Russell desperately needs to conceive an heir—there are good reasons—and hires her rakish neighbor to, erm, assist her. At first I was like “Why am I reading this, no one is enjoying themselves and this is really awkward” but I persevered and I’m so glad I did. It develops slowly but in a very rewarding way and the plot unfolds in a unique, fascinating way.

A Woman Entangled
Book Three in the Blackshear series
Published June 2013
I really want Cecilia Grant to write more books. Three is not enough. The plot is more traditional than its two predecessors, but the writing is as lovely as ever. I loved how Kate and Nick were both determined and ambitious, and how the book dealt so deeply with the repercussions of events from the previous book.

Elizabeth Hoyt
The Leopard Prince
Book Two in the Princes series
Published April 2007
I love George (Georgina, mind) and Harry together. This book has an interesting approach—I saw a review compare it to Lady Chatterley’s Lover. George is a noblewoman and Harry is her land steward and together they investigate a mystery and have some fun times. Harry is very deadpan and George is a little silly, and this book is very funny despite its many darker elements.

Thief of Shadows
Book Four in the Maiden Lane series
Published July 2012
This is one of those books to whose release I obsessively counted down and then consumed immediately and then wrote a gushing fangirl letter to the author as soon as I finished (yes, I did exactly the same thing a year later with Milan’s The Heiress Effect). It’s just. So. Good. It takes rake and bluestocking tropes AND THEN REVERSES GENDER. So Isabel is the one who’s adept in society and just wants to flirt and have dalliances, and Winter is the very serious one who wants physical intimacy to be an expression of emotional intimacy and squeeeee. I appreciated it. A lot.

Courtney Milan
The Duchess War
Book One in The Brothers Sinister series
Published December 6, 2012
I think I’ve already said quite enough about this book. It’s amazing. Go read it. Now.

The Heiress Effect
Book Two in The Brothers Sinister series
Published July 15, 2013

And again, I’ve said a lot. If you need more convincing, it got not one, but two glowing reviews over at Smart Bitches Trashy Books. GO. READ. IT.

Monday, July 22, 2013

My 11 Favorite Contemporaries

My favorite romance novels in the contemporary genre. As with favorite movies, they’re not ranked but organized alphabetically by title and there’s 11 instead of 10 and I’ve summarized as much as I can. You may notice I have a thing for Jennifer Crusie’s books.

The list of my favorite historical romance novels is coming tomorrow!

Bad Boys Do by Victoria Dahl
Book Two in Donovan series
Published October 2011
A really fun book that takes what is essentially a “bad boy meets good girl” set-up and enriches it. It’s about people who are more than the labels they’ve been given learning how to just be themselves and be together. Jamie and Olivia are a really cute couple.

Friday, July 19, 2013

My 10 (no, 11) Favorite Movie Love Stories

Yes, this was supposed to be a book blog, but I love romantic movies just as much as I love romance novels (lists of favorite historical and contemporaries, however, coming soon!). I was so disappointed in Vertigo (and its rank at #18 on the AFI’s list of greatest love stories—gag) that I compiled my own list of favorite movie love stories. (The fact that there are 11 of them them is an homage to A Kiss for Midwinter. Because I'm a fangirl.) You may have seen many of them—in fact, I hope you have! You’ll note that most of them are screwball comedies, and almost all of them have delicious banter. I have a type, what can I say?

I tried to be brief, in case I ever want to review them in more detail. Leave a comment if you want to offer another recommendation or if you want to see a longer review of anything!

And I couldn’t decide how to rank them so I put them in alphabetical order. Yep.

Premiered April 25, 2001
Starring Audrey Tatou as Amélie Poulain and Mathieu Kassovitz as Nino Quincampoix
Quirky, painfully shy girl decides to go about courting quirky, shy guy in her own carefully controlled, distant way. Can she let down her barriers and actually pursue a relationship with him? Oui, ce film est en français, but it’s so adorable you shouldn’t care. The cuteness mixes a little weirdly with lots of sexual elements, because French comedy? But it makes the movie a (quite) grown-up fairy tale.

(English-language films after the jump!)

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

About Last Night by Ruthie Knox

About Last Night by Ruthie Knox
Published June 11, 2012

“Listen, City,” she said. “About last night. Thanks for—”
For getting me back on the train? For taking me home with you, undressing me, letting me sleep in your bed, washing my clothes, setting out a towel and a toothbrush for me, and making me breakfast? Oh, and let’s not forget kissing me and touching me until I damn near lost my mind.
“— for taking care of me,” she finished.

Grade: A-

Official Summary from Author’s Site:
Cath Talarico knows a mistake when she makes it, and God knows she’s made her share. So many, in fact, that this Chicago girl knows London is her last, best shot at starting over. But bad habits are hard to break, and soon Cath finds herself back where she has vowed never to go . . . in the bed of a man who is all kinds of wrong: too rich, too classy, too uptight for a free-spirited troublemaker like her.

Nev Chamberlain feels trapped and miserable in his family’s banking empire. But beneath his pinstripes is an artist and bohemian struggling to break free and lose control. Mary Catherine — even her name turns him on — with her tattoos, her secrets, and her gamine, sex-starved body, unleashes all kinds of fantasies.

When blue blood mixes with bad blood, can a couple that is definitely wrong for each other ever be perfectly right? And with a little luck and a lot of love, can they make last night last a lifetime?

I Say:
About Last Night is not light and fluffy; it’s intense and dark, with a very damaged heroine and the world’s hottest banker. I haven’t been reading many contemporaries lately, but Courtney Milan’s review convinced me to give this book—and this author—a try. I’m glad I did.

Sizzling by Susan Mallery

Sizzling by Susan Mallery
Book Three in The Buchanans series
Published February 2007

“She was met by soft, seductive music, lit candles everywhere and the man of her dreams walking toward her.”

If you didn’t roll your eyes or mentally fiddle with the punctuation, this may be the book for you.

Grade: D+

Official Summary from Author’s Site:
Reid Buchanan was always a fan favorite on the baseball diamond. A spiteful article about the former pitcher and current playboy questions his talent in the bedroom. And the newspaper's just the first bad news. Reid's grandmother Gloria's broken hip means she needs constant carebut Reid hired Nurses 1 and 2 for their bedside manner with him. So for Number 3 he chooses Lori Johnson, the first candidate who seems immune to his brand of charm.

Lori's never wasted her time with amoebas like Reid Buchanan. So why are her well-fortified defenses starting to crumble under the force of his sexy smileand the kindness he shows her at every turn? There's only one explanation for the feelings flaring between themchemistry. Chemistry so hot, it's sizzling!

I Say:
This was a book I took out from the library because of the title and the cover. Not much thought went into my decision. I expected it to be a light, fluffy, fun, escapist read. And in some parts it was. But other times it was contrived, awkward, or just inappropriate. So I’m pretty glad it came from the library.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Vertigo, directed by Alfred Hitchcock

Vertigo, directed by Alfred Hitchcock
Starring Jimmy Stewart and Kim Novak
Released May 9, 1958

Romance Grade: F

I am well aware that this movie is a Hitchcock classic, an eerie psychological thriller. Things are supposed to be a little twisted. It’s certainly not meant to be a feel-good romance. It’s a classic movie, well-ranked on all kind of “greatest films” lists. But the relationships in this movie made me so angry. And I want to talk about it. It’s going to be a rant, but I’m willing to be reasoned with in the comments once I get my rant out. Here goes.

The Heiress Effect by Courtney Milan

The Heiress Effect by Courtney Milan
Book Two in The Brothers Sinister series
Published July 15, 2013

 “What ungodly color are you wearing?”
“Green,” she said. “Serpent-belly green. Or perhaps it’s the green of a cloud of poisonous chlorine gas.”
“And yet nobody is shrieking and averting their eyes.” He gave her a smile. “Nice trick. How do you manage it?”
She gave him a brilliant smile. “Simple,” she said, adjusting the diamonds at her neck. “I already told you. It’s the heiress effect.”

Grade: A+

Official Summary from Author’s Site:
Miss Jane Fairfield can’t do anything right. When she’s in company, she always says the wrong thing—and rather too much of it. No matter how costly they are, her gowns fall on the unfortunate side of fashion. Even her immense dowry can’t save her from being an object of derision.

And that’s precisely what she wants. She’ll do anything, even risk humiliation, if it means she can stay unmarried and keep her sister safe.

Mr. Oliver Marshall has to do everything right. He’s the bastard son of a duke, raised in humble circumstances—and he intends to give voice and power to the common people. If he makes one false step, he’ll never get the chance to accomplish anything. He doesn’t need to come to the rescue of the wrong woman. He certainly doesn’t need to fall in love with her. But there’s something about the lovely, courageous Jane that he can’t resist…even though it could mean the ruin of them both.

I Say:
I don’t consider this a romance novel so much as a piece of literature. It’s magnificent, one of the best things I’ve ever read. It’s challenging, sometimes heartbreaking, not exactly light reading…and yet I giggled aloud at least ten times while reading some of the more buoyant scenes. I’ve been anticipating this book since December, and counting down the days since Courtney Milan announced its release date. I didn’t dare to hope that this would be better than The Duchess War, which was a revelation; this book was so much more than I ever expected.